Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that new elementary teachers know the science of reading instruction and are prepared for the instructional shifts related to literacy associated with college-and career-readiness standards. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
603 CMR 7.04(2) Test Requirement http://www.doe.mass.edu/mtel/testrequire.html
Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous assessment in the science of reading instruction.
Massachusetts is commended for requiring the Foundations of Reading assessment that ensures that its elementary teacher candidates are adequately prepared in the science of reading instruction before entering the classroom. The state undermines this strong policy by allowing candidates to meet the requirement with the Reading Specialist test. This assessment does not fully test knowledge and skills related to the science of reading and address all five instructional components of scientifically based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Although Massachusetts is on the right track with its requirement of the Foundations of Reading test, which addresses knowledge of informational texts, the in-depth coverage of the topic is presented as examples. Therefore, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. Massachusetts is encouraged to make certain that its framework captures the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards, thereby ensuring that all elementary candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate complex informational text into classroom instruction. Because candidates may also satisfy the reading test requirement by taking the MTEL Reading Specialist test, which does not address the knowledge of informational texts, Massachusetts is encouraged to require all candidates to take the Foundations of Reading test.
Ensure that new elementary teachers are prepared to incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
Although Massachusetts is on the right track with its requirement of the Foundations of Reading test, which addresses literacy skills, the in-depth coverage of the topic is presented as examples. Therefore, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. Massachusetts is encouraged to make certain that its framework captures the major instructional shifts of college- and career-readiness standards, thereby ensuring that all special education candidates have the ability to adequately incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject into classroom instruction. Because candidates may also satisfy the reading test requirement by taking the MTEL Reading Specialist test, which does not address the incorporation of literacy skills as an integral part of every subject, Massachusetts is encouraged to require all candidates to take the Foundations of Reading test.
Support struggling readers
Although Massachusetts is on the right track with its requirements of the Foundations of Reading test, which addresses the use of assessments and strategies to support struggling readers, the coverage of the topic is presented as examples. Therefore, the extent to which this information is required is unclear. Massachusetts is therefore encouraged to strengthen its teacher preparation requirements and ensure that all candidates who teach the elementary grades have the ability to identify as well as support struggling readers.
Massachusetts recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, however this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review. In June of 2017, The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved revised regulatory language that grants the state department the authority to develop (and update) guidelines for the Subject-Matter Knowledge (SMK) Requirements used by providers to design teacher preparation programs and by the state to develop items and cut-scores for the MTEL. In anticipation of this, the state has already begun convening working groups from the field to update the SMKs in alignment with the 2013 MA Curriculum Frameworks. This will mean substantial revisions to expectations for teacher candidates in all programs with a focus on literacy across the subject-areas and an emphasis on college and career readiness for students. The guidelines will be out for public comment this fall and finalized by January 2018. As a result, the department will be updating the Reading Specialist test (and Foundations of Reading test) in 2017-2018 to align with the updated English/Language Arts frameworks and will address the assessment of "use of informational texts."
NCTQ looks forward to reviewing Massachusetts's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.
2C: Teaching Elementary Reading
Teaching children to read is the most important task teachers undertake. Over the past 60 years, scientists from many fields have worked to determine how people learn to read and why some struggle. This science of reading has led to breakthroughs that can dramatically reduce the number of children destined to become functionally illiterate or barely literate adults, identifying five components of effective instruction. In fact, most reading failure can be avoided by routinely applying the lessons learned from the scientific findings in the classroom. Estimates indicate that the current failure rate of 20 to 30 percent could be reduced to 2 to 10 percent.
Scientific research has shown that there are five essential components of effective reading instruction: explicit and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Many states' policies still do not reflect the strong research consensus in reading instruction that has emerged over the last few decades. Many teacher preparation programs resist teaching scientifically-based reading instruction. Reports by NCTQ on teacher preparation, beginning with What Education Schools Aren't Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning in 2006 and continuing through the Teacher Prep Review in 2016 have consistently found the overwhelming majority of teacher preparation programs across the country do not train teachers in the science of reading, although the most recent Teacher Prep Review did find signs of improvement. Whether through standards or coursework requirements, states must direct programs to provide this critical training. But relying on programs alone is insufficient; states must only grant licenses to new elementary teachers who can demonstrate they have the knowledge and skills to teach children to read.
Most current reading tests do not offer assurance that teachers know the science of reading. A growing number of states, such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia, require strong, stand-alone assessments entirely focused on the science of reading. Other states rely on either pedagogy tests or content tests that include items on reading instruction. However, since reading instruction is addressed only in one small part of most of these tests, it is often not necessary to know the science of reading to pass. States need to make sure that a teacher candidate cannot pass a test that purportedly covers reading instruction without knowing the critical material.
College- and career-readiness standards require significant shifts in literacy instruction. College- and career-readiness standards for K-12 students adopted by nearly all states require from teachers a different focus on literacy integrated into all subject areas. The standards demand that teachers are prepared to bring complex text and academic language into regular use, emphasize the use of evidence from informational and literary texts and build knowledge and vocabulary through content-rich text. While most states have not ignored teachers' need for training and professional development related to these instructional shifts, few states have attended to the parallel need to align teacher competencies and requirements for teacher preparation so that new teachers will enter the classroom ready to help students meet the expectations of these standards.